Nogizaka46 vs HKT48! Silent Siren vs Thinking Dogs! Choshu vs Fujinami! GUM ROCK FES in Nippon Budokan!
The historic Nippon Budokan, originally built for the judo events of the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, became the site for a unique battle of music and wrestling at GUM ROCK FES in Nippon Budokan on January 25, 2016. I was a 4 round event with Silent Siren vs Thinking Dogs (Round 1), comedian and former Olympic boxing hopeful Shizu-chan vs Super Sasadango Machine (Round 2), HKT48 vs Nogizaka46, and professional wrestling legends Riki Choshu vs Tatsumi “Dragon” Fujinami (Round 4) facing off to see who would reign supreme!
Simon Tonegawa, a character who has been featured in commercials for Lotte’s (the event sponsor) various chewing gum commercials, appeared to welcome the fans who had gathered for the event. Mirroring the two giant hands above the stage, he strained his voice as he urged them to shout the phrase “gum rock” along with him.
Round 1 – Silent Siren vs Thinking Dogs
Thinking Dogs (Blue Corner)
Rock band Thinking Dogs, who have been featured in the chewing gum commercials with Tonegawa as their producer, were up first, starting with their second single “3 Times”, a midtempo number that had the audience thrusting and shaking their penlights to the rhythm. Vocalist TSUBASA ran from end to end of the stage during the second song “Sonna Kimi, Konna Boku” (36th ending theme for Naruto), waving to fans as drummer Daiki took over vocal duties temporarily while blasting out the rhythm on his kit.
Slowing things down with “Gomenne, Catherine” TSUBASA urged the audience to clap along to the beat, sweat running down his face as he sang. Ending with their debut single “Sekai wa Owaranai”, Thinking Dogs got festivities off to a strong start and earned a warm reception despite being the least known group to appear on stage that evening.
01 3 Times
02 Sonna Kimi, Konna Boku
03 Gomenne, Catherine
04 Sekai wa Owaranai
Thinking Dogs Official site: http://www.thinkingdogs.jp/
Thinking Dogs Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/iamthinkingdogs
Silent Siren (Red Corner)
Silent Siren took the stage, beginning with “Hachi-gatsu no Yoru”, Hinako Umemura (aka Hinanchu) whipping her long red hair while holding down the beats and Aina Yamauchi (aka Ainyan) sliding her fingers around the fretboard of her bass. Yukako Kurosaka (aka Yukarun) pumped her fist as she played the keyboards with her other hand, trading off solos with vocalist/guitarist Sumire Yoshida (aka Suu).
Suu mentioned how the “gum rock” pose looked like someone chewing gum, allowing Yukarun to explain that Silent Siren had their own hand signals for their newest song “Cherry Bomb”. While the audience had the motions down, whether or not they were able to make any cherries with their fingers while gripping their penlights is another story. Hinanchu kept a steady beat going on her bass drum as Suu asked for the audience to get out their towels for “Guru Guru Wonderland”. Yukarun’s right hand bounced around on her keyboard playing the melody as she waved her towel with her left before running out to the side of the stage in her usual energetic fashion.
01 Hachi-gatsu no Yoru
02 Cherry Bomb
03 Guru Guru Wonderland
Silent Siren Official Site: http://silent-siren.com/
Silent Siren Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/staffsaisai
Hinanchu kept a beat going as Thinking Dogs returned to the stage and the members of both groups were introduced, taking solos on their instruments. Launching into the collaboration song, a cover of The Blue Hearts’ classic “Linda Linda”, the venue rocked as the audience sang along.
A show of hands in the “gum rock” pose was used to decide the winner of the first round but, Tonegawa ended up laying down the final decision, awarding Thinking Dogs the year’s supply of gum. Seeing as they had been starring in the commercials with Tonegawa, there was probably no way that Silent Siren would have won, despite being the more established group and having sold out the Budokan by themselves a year earlier. Undeterred, Suu expressed how much fun it was to collaborate with another band and issued a friendly challenge for a rematch.
Round 2 – Shizu-chan (Nankai Candies) vs Super Sasadango Machine
Niigata professional wrestler Super Sasadango Machine faced off with comedian and former Olympic boxing hopeful Shizu-chan for the second bout of the night. The arena glowed green as Super Sasadango Machine emerged from the giant gum container. Shizu-chan took to the ring with fellow comedian Macha-Macha as her assistant.
Despite being a professional wrestler, it seemed that Super Sasadango Machine’s real passion was giving presentations as he delivered a hilarious talk about chewing gum. He claimed that the real rival of gum was mochi, and because Niigata is famous for mochi, no one there has ever chewed gum. Since Niigata idol group Negicco had appeared in commercials for mochi, Super Sasadango Machine decided that NGT48 would be the group to represent gum, once again bringing up the imaginary rivalry between the two that has been created by the media.
In sharp contrast Shizu-chan’s prsentation was a simple list of opponents that she wished to face, which included: her partner in Nankai Candies Yama-chan, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), and Super Sasadango Machine. Uttering, “Are you afraid?”, as she stared coldly and calmly across the ring, the match ended before it begun with Shizu-chan being declared the winner via forfeit. Super Sasadango Machine turned down the challenge, citing that he was fearful of what might happen if he were to be hit by her punches.
Round 3 – HKT48 vs Nogizaka46
It was a battle of “East vs West” as Fukuoka’s HKT48 squared off with Tokyo’s Nogizaka46 in the showdown that was easily the most anticipated of the evening.
HKT48 (Blue Corner)
HKT48 emerged from behind the doors of the giant gum container as their overture blasted from out of the speakers as penlights waved and fans chanted in anticipation. Arms folded, HKT48 swung into action with the aggressive “Shekarashika!” Rino Sashihara (aka Sasshi) lead the MIX as HKT48 made an abrupt shift in tone to the cute “Sakura, Mina de Tabeta”. Sasshi implored the Nogizaka46 fans for some help as the members of HKT48 called out “love and peace” for “Rock da yo, Jinsei wa…”.
Taking a break, Sasshi expressed some fears of HKT48 performing in the backyard of Nogizaka46 but felt reassured when she saw them getting excited during the first few songs. Natsumi Matsuoka asked some of the other members what they felt that they could beat their rival at. Yui Kojina, who has dreams of appearing in shampoo commercials, called attention to her silky hair. Mio Tomonaga claimed that because their average age was much lower, they were “fresher” than Nogizaka46 but just as she said it, the cameras zoomed in on Sasshi’s face. Nako Yabuki mentioned experience as a strength since she had been in show business for most of her life and even appeared in a Lotte commercial when she was in elementary school. Nako then took the center spot for a song she boasted that even Nogizaka46 fans would love, “Wink wa 3-kai”. The Budokan was bathed in the glow of green penlights for “Melon Juice” before HKT48 finished up with “12-byou”.
02 Sakura, Mina de Tabeta
03 Rock da yo, Jinsei wa…
04 Wink wa 3-kai
05 Melon Juice
Participating members: Chihiro Anai, Aika Ota, Yui Kojina, Haruka Kodama, Riko Sakaguchi, Rino Sashihara, Meru Tashima, Miku Tanaka, Mio Tomonaga, Mai Fuchigami, Natsumi Matsuoka, Sakura Miyawaki, Aoi Motomura, Madoka Moriyasu, Nako Yabuki, Emiri Yamashita
HKT48 Official site: http://www.hkt48.jp/
Nogizaka46 (Red Corner)
The moment that most of the estimated 7,000 in attendance had been waiting for had finally come. Voices chanted and penlights waved to the electronic beats of the overture as Nogizaka46 stepped out onto the stage. Moving softly through the fog floating across the stage, the members stretched their arms towards the night sky and out from the stage as their fans mirrored them to the pounding bass and delicate piano melody of “Inochi wa Utsukushii”. The tempo shifted into overdrive with the fast-paced “Popipappapaa”, which experienced some technical difficulties as the music cut out midway through the song before revving back up, keeping the dance club mood moving along with “Seifuku no Mannequin”.
Captain Reika Sakurai exclaimed that Nogizaka46 were pretty fired up to face off against HKT48 in the “East-West Showdown”. Nanase Nishino joked that she thought it was Sasshi that had cut the sound during “Popipappapaa”. Manatsu Akimoto declared herself as the “cute specialist” of the group (despite the ardent denials from Sayuri Matsumura, Minami Hoshino, and several other much younger members) and tried to appeal to the audience by aiming for their hearts with a cute “Zukkyun!”. When asked about challenges they wanted to take on, Mai Fukagawa mentioned Mario Kart and did a cute impression of Yoshi slipping on a banana peel. Erika Ikuta wanted to be able to eat horumon (offal) as it was the last of her disliked foods. Kazumi Takayama wanted to wrestle mixed martial artist Yoshihiro Takayama, citing that she had already beat him in janken and pointed to the ring, thinking it was the perfect opportunity to make her dream come true.
Reengaging in the music battle, Nogizaka46 went with the sentimental “Kimi no Na wa Kibou”, swaying as the fans in the arena followed their hands raising, falling, and moving above their heads like the sun setting in the evening sky. Hugging each other from behind and bouncing lightly back and forth, Nogizaka46 closed out their set with “Oide Shampoo”.
01 Inochi wa Utsukushii
03 Seifuku no Mannequin
04 Kimi no Na wa Kibou
05 Oide Shampoo
Participating members: Manatsu Akimoto, Erika Ikuta, Rina Ikoma, Marika Ito, Sayuri Inoue, Misa Eto, Asuka Saito, Reika Sakurai, Mai Shiraishi, Kazumi Takayama, Nanase Nishino, Nanami Hashimoto, Mai Fukagawa, Minami Hoshino, Sayuri Matsumura, Yumi Wakatsuki
Nogizaka46 Official site: http://www.nogizaka46.com/
HKT48 reappeared on the stage for their rendition of Nogizaka46’s “Danke schön” and had the audience calling out names and whooping. Nogizaka46 returned the favor with a performance of HKT48’s “Hikaeme I love you!”, smiling cheerfully and waving to their fans for the big finish.
Sasshi commented that she felt like HKT48 had a chance of winning when she saw some of the purple lights switch to green during “Melon Juice”. She recalled how she had faced off against Nogizaka46 for her first solo single “Soredemo Suki dayo”, a battle she ultimately lost as “Oide Shampoo” sold more than twice as much as she did.
When it came down to deciding who the winner was Tonegawa announced that it would be decided via janken (rock-paper-scissors) with a twist. Instead of starting with rock, the contestants would have to make the rock gesture instead before throwing their hand. Sashihara nominated Sakura, the newly appointed center of AKB48’s 43rd single “Kimi wa Melody”. Nogizaka46’s Sayuri Matsumura stepped forward to meet her, flipping her hair over her shoulder and stating that she would win since she chews the most gum out of all of the young women in Japan. The first 2 throws were scissors for both, causing Sakura to start shaking. The 3rd throw was another tie as both idols threw rock. Sayuri asked Sasshi for advice for what to throw, with the answer being “rock”. Sakura gambled on her opponent taking the advice and threw paper, emerging victorious! Sayuri collapsed in defeat as Sasshi asked her why she seriously took her advice.
Round 4 – Riki Choshu (Blue Corner) vs Tatsumi “Dragon” Fujinami (Red Corner)
The rest of the performers returned to the stage in preparation for the main event, a rematch between two of the legends of Japanese professional wrestling Riki Choshu and Tatsumi “Dragon” Fujinami. Sasshi and Mai Shiraishi both admitted that they had never seen a match before and were especially excited. Sasshi lead a chant for Choshu and Rina Ikoma lead one for “Dragon”.
The bell rang to start the match and the two wrestlers began circling each other in the ring. Fujinami found himself pushed into a corner by Choshu, causing the referee to break it up and have them start again. Reaching their hands out, the opponents locked up, bringing Fujinami down onto the mat, where he threw Choshu but only got a 1 count. The two engaged each other in leg locks, Fujinami pulling on Choshu’s foot before he was able to roll away and escape. Fujinami threw Choshu over his shoulder again before the referee broke things up as he had gotten stuck in a corner again. Choshu began bouncing off of the ropes in order to set up his signature lariat and despite being stopped several times, he eventually generated enough momentum to bring Fujinami to the mat and pin him in a quick 3 count. Sasshi exclaimed how amazing it was to have seen her first wrestling match but it was Ikoma who seemed to have been the most moved, commenting, “Seeing two men fight each other like that was really hot to witness even though I didn’t know anything about the rules!”
Riki Choshu Official site: http://www.choshuriki.com/
Dradition Official site: http://www.muga-world.jp/
After several lucky ticket holders got into the ring to have their picture taken with Choshu and Fujinami, it was time for GUM ROCK FES to end. Thinking Dogs performed the theme song for the event “Ato 100 Mile” as HKT48, Nogizaka46, and Silent Siren threw signed plastic balls out into the audience, delivering on Ikoma’s promise of presents to the audience members who stayed until the very end.
While many of those who showed up at the Nippon Budokan for GUM ROCK FES may have only come to see their favorite group, it was a night full of excitement in several forms. Based on some of the reactions of those who saw professional wrestling for the first time, the chances of another GUM ROCK FES being held soon seem quite likely.
GUM ROCK FES Official site: http://lottegum.jp/gumrock-fes/
Lotte Gum YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxRkJ23xY9IoDbQ5K33HOrg
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